Cramps. Gnawing dull pain, sharp aches or rolling spasms, they come in all kinds of annoying varieties. An irritating inconvenience for one person is debilitating pain for someone else, with days off school required to spend curled up with a hot water bottle.

Historically, cramps were just something people had to deal with and power through, but this is finally changing. Recently there has been much more open discussion and study around periods and the intense pain they can cause, and the medical world is taking the treatment of cramps more seriously.

As someone who suffers from truly awful period pains (think being unable to move for hours at a time) I wanted to find out more from an expert. I asked Dr. Shirley McQuade, women’s health expert and Medical Director at the Dublin Well Woman Centre a few burning questions.

It feels like thousands of tiny knives stabbing me, but what’s actually happening to my body?

“The womb is made of muscle and when the muscle starts contracting to shed the lining of the womb (a period) women experience cramping. So, period cramping tends to happen for a day or two before bleeding starts and for the first 2 – 3 days of bleeding.”

Life is an unfair lottery, and I wanted to know why some people get exhausting period pains while others get off scot-free. Apparently, it’s all about ‘pain factors’ (things called prostaglandins and leukotrienes). Scientists have found there are higher levels of these substances in people who experience more severe pain around that time of the month.

Wait though, I’m getting cramps at weird times…

If you’ve just gotten your period and are experiencing cramps at other more unusual times in your cycle, don’t worry too much. “For the first year or two after periods start – and sometimes longer – periods are not regular and so cramping can happen at other times with little or no bleeding.”

You can also get cramps in the middle of your cycle – this is down to ovulation. It’s a good idea to keep a pain record to spot patterns, this can help you and your doctor figure out what other reasons there might be for your discomfort. Avoid self-diagnosing online, as this most likely will just cause you unnecessary anxiety (speaking from experience).

So, how do I deal with them?

A lot of people can deal with cramps in a straightforward way. They might just need a regular painkiller like paracetamol for the first day of their period. Others are sadly not as lucky, and Dr McQuade says a visit to the doctor is vital if your cramps are getting in the way of your routine and plans.

“You should see a doctor if the pain is interfering with your life – either regularly missing days from school or not being able to go out with friends. Most women will experience some cramping at period time but it should not stop your normal life. The doctor will ask about your diet and exercise level and what you have tried so far for the pain. Ask about the treatment choices available. Often this kind of period pain gets better as you get older.”

My friends don’t get them, so they don’t understand how bad it is…

People who don’t experience cramps can sometimes be insensitive about how much pain you’re in, but Dr. McQuade emphasises that if you’re cancelling plans regularly because of your pain, you need to talk to a medical professional. The best ways to cope with menstrual pain are regular exercise and a good diet, they can make a massive difference to how you feel during your period. If you’re not able to do any major exercise, some light yoga or pilates stretches really do make a difference.

Although we all reach for the chocolate during those tough few days, this can cause your blood sugars to spike and drop (it’s best to keep them stable). Skipping meals is also a big no-no, you need to care for your body and keep it nourished. Dr. McQuade is also an advocate of the trusty hot water bottle.

In terms of medicine, taking ibuprofen three times a day, two days before your period starts is what Dr. McQuade recommends. Prevention is better than cure. “Since the “pain factors” we mentioned earlier start being released before a period happens, it’s much more effective than waiting for the period pain to begin.”

Help! They are still really painful

Unfortunately some of us need other pain killers as ibuprofen might not have much of an effect on extreme cases. There are plenty of other brilliant options you can try out, under a doctor’s supervision of course. Many women also find taking the contraceptive pill can alleviate period pains, so this is also worth bringing up the next time you go to your GP.

Tracking your period in a notebook or using an app is probably one of the most useful things you can do. By recording your cycles and other menstrual symptoms like fatigue, nausea, tender boobs and bloating, you can see a clearer picture of what’s going on with your body. You’ll feel more in control and be able to explain your problems to your doctor clearly, ensuring you get the help that’s specific to you.

Don’t suffer in silence, and don’t let period pains take over your life. There are so many solutions out there that will make things easier for you.

Image: Legally Blonde

Ahhh hormones, they make the world go round, right? Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but they’re deffo responsible for rollercoaster emotions and the weird and wonderful things that happen to bods during puberty and beyond.

So are you clued up or totally clueless about the chemicals that make us fabulously female?

Let’s find out! (WARNING: This test is tricky).

1. Ok, so one of these ISN’T a legit hormone. Can you spot it?

2. What’s the name of the super-important hormone that kicks off your first period during puberty?

3. Aww, did you know the brain releases a ‘cuddle’ hormone that makes you feel all warm and loving. What’s it called?

4. What natural chemical in the bod causes those demon cramps when you’ve got your period?

5. Boys have oestrogen in their bodies too. True or False?

6. You feel pain less when oestrogen is at its highest (the week after your period finishes). Fact or fib?

7. The follicle-stimulating hormone sounds fancy. But what does it do?

8. Due to the blue light that devices let off, too much time on your phone late at night (yup, guilty), can meddle with the sleep-related hormone called…

9. Progesterone majorly peaks sometime during your monthly menstrual cycle, but do you know when?

10. What’s the name of the brain-chemical that makes you happy and fun? (When this dips you can feel super-sad too. Boo.)

For any gal who gets a period, choosing how to handle things is a pretty big decision. It’s almost as if the struggle of contorting yourself into a ball to combat cramps, fighting the urge to scoff six packets of chocolate biscuits in a row and trying to keep a lid on an explosion of ragey hormones wasn’t enough to deal with.

A lot of girls would call it a no-brainer when it comes down to what comes next, though. When that magical time of the month rolls around, you stick your hand in your bag and pull out either a pad or a tampon to prevent your favourite undies from being ruined. Right? Um, not necessarily.

Did you know that there’s actually a shedload of alternative options if you’re still not convinced by the two main players in the ‘feminine hygiene’ (eye roll) aisle? Here’s a few other genius ways of handling your period that you might not have heard about before.

Period pants

Alright, hands in the air if there’s a couple of pairs of particularly tragic looking undies in your drawer, that have been officially ruined by an unexpected period or two? Yep, that’s everyone then.

Luckily, there are now specially designed PERIOD PANTS out there to make sure that such knicker-related disasters never happen again. Some brilliant human has invented totally stain-resistant underwear called Thinx, which are absorbent enough to hold up to TWO tampons worth of fluid.

They totally eliminate the need for any extra bits and bobs each month, and all you have to do is pop them in the washing machine between uses. Even if you’re not quite confident enough to rock them through the day, they could just save your sheets through the night if you get particularly heavy periods.

Menstrual cup

Tempted by tampons but ever so slightly freaked out by the cottons, the fibres, the fact they cost a million pounds a box? You’re not alone, and that’s where THE CUP could be ready to change your life. A menstrual cup is a small, cute little silicone cup which basically just sits inside you and collects your flow as you go.

Attempting to use one can be a little tricky to begin with, but once you’ve cracked it, some say they’re way more comfortable to wear than tampons. Plus, a cup can hold a LOT of fluid, so it can be left to do its thang for up to 12 hours, and they’re as environmentally friendly as it gets. Some can last up to ten years if cared for properly. It’s kinda like your ride or die.

Importantly, a cup is the ultimate way to get to know how your body works (yup, emptying them into the loo is weirdly satisfying) and will teach you more than you ever knew about the whole process of your period from start to finish.

Sea sponge

Everyone wishes they were a mermaid, but using a sea sponge for your period surely takes things to the next level. Almost definitely favoured by Ariel, this non-toxic, all-natural little guy really does come from the sea, and basically transforms your ovaries into a coral reef. Kinda.

Sponges are obvs super-absorbent and soft when soaked in moisture, so it totally makes sense that they’d be handy for periods. A menstrual sponge/sea sponge/sponge tampon is literally just a piece of natural sponge that’s cut to the right shape and soaked before use.

It might sound kinda crazy, but hear us out. All you have to do is use it, take it out, rinse it and pop it straight back in – and they can last for up to a year which would save you a few quid. They’re comfy, sustainable and are even more absorbent than your average tampon. Okay, so it’s not your usual period accessory, but everyone HAS been going on about #mermaidgoals this year…

Free bleed

For the girl who owns a strong supply of black underwear and is on the ball when it comes to changing the sheets, free bleeding – as in, just letting your period come on down – is a perfectly valid option and it’s totally okay.

Grossed out by the idea? Well, think about it. You’re simply just letting your body do what it’s naturally born to do, without any hassle from a load of products getting involved. A lot of women opt for it for comfort, ease and even as a kickass feminist statement.

There’s all sorts of benefits that come with literally going with the flow. Tampons absorb more than just menstrual blood – they also take in vaginal and cervical fluids, so ditching them leaves your bits and pieces in their perfectly natural state. It’s better for the planet, it’s free and hey, the only thing you have to lose is your last pair of stain-free undies.

Resuable pads or tampons

Who knew that reusable tampons were a thing that existed? Washable versions of the trusty, traditional (but not always perfect) tampon can actually be knitted, sewn from cotton or even crocheted, which just brings a whole new meaning to arts and crafts.

You can easily find them online, and once you’re the proud owner of a reusable tampon or two, you’ll never have that horrible, sinking feeling of realising you used your last one this morning.

Reusable pads are also a solid choice that you might want to consider. They vary in absorption and comfort levels to perfectly suit your period, depending on the type of material that they’re made from. Often with a clever built-in waterproof back lining, reusable pads just need a wash between uses, and are often made from cute AF patterned fabrics.

So maybe it’s time to think outside the tampon box for your next cycle? Whatever you choose to opt for to tackle your time of the month, make sure it’s something that’ll leave you feeling totally confident and comfort. Period.

You know the saying knowledge is power? Well that’s soooo the case when we’re talking vaginas. Discovering all the wonderful, and let’s face it sometimes weird, things that goes on with our ladybits is fascinating, huh? More importantly though, learning what *really* happens between our legs can be the difference between thinking you’re freaky and knowing you’re totally normal. Trust us, you’re normal.

So how much do you know already about the inner and outer workings of your vag? A lot? A little? Nada? Take our test to find out…

1. How many holes do you have *down there* (bum included)?

2. Which moves us swiftly on, what the heck is the urethra?

3. The clitoris is the vagina’s super-sensitive feel-good button, but how many nerve endings does it have?

4. Vaginas are clever, but which one of these things CAN’T your vag do?

5. The outer lady bits – the labia, clitoris, urethra and the vaginal opening – are together called…

6. Which one of these ISN’T part of your vagina?

7. Their official name is the labia, but do you know the purpose of your lovely lady lips?

8. What is the hymen?

9. The cervix links up your uterus and your vagina, but do you know where it sits?

10. ONLY one of these discharge situs is totally normal. Can you spot it? (The others need checking out by a doc btw)

Image: Katie Edmunds

Cramps, clots and moods: we’re living in an era where people are more vocal and open about periods both among our friendship groups and in popular culture. We discuss the merits of a menstrual cup vs tampons, swap cramp cures and are just generally more comfortable chatting about that time of the month. This shift in how we talk about and manage our periods is amazing, but what about how they were dealt with in the past? How did people treat cramps in medieval times? What did people use before tampons?

Ancient attitudes

The root of the word ‘menstruation’ comes from the Latin word ‘mensis’ which means month. The word ‘moon’ also originates from this Latin root. Using the word ‘period’ is actually relatively modern, although it was in use from the early 15th century, it wasn’t used in the context we know it until the 1820s.

There was a major taboo around periods in ancient civilisations, and this means that there isn’t a lot of recorded information about what people used to deal with periods thousands of years ago. What we do know for sure is that both Ancient Greeks and Romans used makeshift ‘menstrual cloths’, a very basic version of the sanitary towels of today. A lot of these historical records were also written by men, so there’s not a lot of first-person accounts from people who actually had periods.

The medical knowledge we have today about periods means that a lot of the mystery that was there before has been debunked. Ancient civilisations were far more superstitious about periods and what they ‘really meant’.

The Ancient Greeks believed that if you didn’t get your period after the age of 14 the excess blood would cause a condition called ‘hysteria’, the main symptoms of which were headaches, depressive episodes and (gasp) swearing. Strips of linen were used and washed by Ancient Egyptians, who viewed the period as a time of ‘cleansing’. Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder was pretty outlandish in his claims about menstrual blood. Calm down, mate:

“turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens dry up, the fruit falls off tress, steel edges blunt and the gleam of ivory is dulled, bees die in their hives, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”

Medieval menstruation and beyond

Hygiene standards in the Middle Ages were less than perfect. In the era of the bubonic plague and open sewers, it can’t have been easy around the time of the month. Super-absorbent bog moss was used to stuff homemade menstrual pads, and petticoats were often red to disguise bleeding. Historians Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety wrote a book all about the subject and found that few medieval women actually got regular periods because of poor nutrition, and often menopause began earlier in light of the short life expectancy in general. Religious beliefs at this time also meant that periods were still seen as unclean and something not to be discussed.

The beliefs about periods varied from culture to culture. When Europe colonised America, they found that the indigenous Cherokee tribe avoided women during their periods, and the women stayed in special houses for the few days a month. Christian Europeans wrongly believed this was a result of the tribe thinking the women were unclean, when it was actually a case of them believing menstruating women were extremely powerful.

The hysterical Victorians

The Victorian era was extremely conservative and uptight, and any discussion of periods or female sexuality was usually silenced. People were more generally aware of having good hygiene standards, so tampons, if used at all, were made with linen and even had the string they come with today. A girdle-like contraption called a ‘sanitary apron’ was also used during this time. The idea of female hysteria from the Ancient Greeks became something Victorian doctors wrote about a lot, with symptoms like headaches, mood swings and even homicidal mania. These ideas would eventually evolve into what became known as PMS (pre-menstrual tension).

The first period products

The first disposable pads were called Lister’s Towels and were made by Johnson & Johnson from 1888. During World War One, nurses noticed that wood pulp bandages made excellent makeshift pads. Cellucotton were big suppliers of these bandages and in a stroke of genius decided to market them as Kotex. The first commercial tampons were invented a few years later in 1929 by Dr. Earle Haas. He later sold the patent to Gertrude Tendrich who made each tampon by hand with a sewing machine and air compressor. Her company is now known as Tampax.

The first pads with an adhesive strip were made in 1969 by Stayfree, which was just one of many design changes that made life easier for millions of people.

The first menstrual cup was patented all the way back in 1932. It was made of rubber, not like the modern silicone variety and wasn’t a commercial success, as people were still a little squeamish at the idea. The popularity of reusable cups has now skyrocketed, as a way to save money and also avoid creating waste.

Still a way to go

The stigma around periods is lifting, with companies finally realising that ads depicting a blue liquid being poured onto a pad just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Approaching periods in a realistic way means more of us are talking about them. We’re ending the shame, piece by piece, conversation by conversation.

Although many of us are lucky enough to be able to afford period products, there are many others who are not as fortunate. People who are made homeless or living in poverty don’t have access to the comfort and security of pads or cups, but there are ways you can help. Dignity Period are an organisation that provide pads and education to improve the lives of women and girls in Ethiopia. Closer to home, food banks accept donations for those they help, and your donation can really make a difference.

Britney is a total sasspot. Seriously, if you haven’t seen her in concert (ok, we get it, it’s expensive and in Vegas but we can dream) or at least watched her goddess moves on YouTube over and over, please do. Not only is she an insane dancer, but she gets us. We can pretty much relate to every one of her bangers.

If you’re having relationship drama, Womanizer on repeat will help release your anger. If it’s love you’re feeling, Gimme More will have you head over heels before you can say, ‘It’s Britney, bitch’. And if you’re on your period, well, you could create a whole album… Does it drive you crazy? Make you stronger? Or do you become a total slave for it? Take our quiz to find out!

1. You come on your period at school, do you...

2. You’re two days into your period. It’s Wednesday. It’s raining. Do you...

3. You see a puppy in the park licking its owner and you...

4. You’ve got a sleepover tonight and you’re on your period, do you…

5. Periods = cravings. Always. Your go-to favourite food to binge on is…

6. You’ve got a party on Saturday night and your crush is going. But you’ve got a period spot. Do you…

7. You’ve vegging out in front of the TV eating snacks. But what’s loading up on your widescreen?

8. You’re sat round the lunch table chatting with your squad. Are they…

We talk about boobs a lot here at betty, but we haven’t actually spoken about how to do one of the most important things: fondle your tits. (The more scientific phrase is obviously: how to examine your breasts, but that doesn’t sound as exciting.)

So, here’s the lowdown on how to check your boobs and why you need to do it. By the end of this, you’ll have monthly reminders on your phone. We bet you 50p.

I’m only a teenager, why do I need to check my boobs?!

Right?! We hear you. If you’re still a teenager, or even young adult, then what’s the point of checking your boobs for anything nasty?

The facts state that developing breast cancer in your teenage years is ‘extremely rare’ and it’s still even ‘uncommon’ when you’re in your 20s and 30s. The NHS doesn’t start sending ‘COME AND GET YOUR BOOBS CHECKED’ letters until you’re 50, which is the age (and above) at which most breast cancers are diagnosed.

BUT, nevertheless, it’s good to get the practice in. It’s easy, quick, and free, so why not start a routine of checking?

Also, you might not find anything cancer-related but you might just find something else. There are many different types of breast lumps and most of them aren’t malignant (cancer). Benign breast lumps are non-cancerous and come in many shapes and sizes, and many different ages.

One example is a fibroadenoma. They’re lumps that can grow thanks to your hormones (surprise surprise), can be quite common to find during puberty/as a young woman, and aren’t dangerous, but can hurt if they’re sizeable and can be removed. (Spoiler: I had two when I was 20!)

how to check your boobs

How do I check them properly?

Both the NHS and boob charity CoppaFeel say that there’s no one right way to check your boobs, so don’t feel nervous that you’re doing it wrong. Just bloody do it.

Some basic pointers are:

  • Check them in the shower! While you’re naked, get touchy feely too. Two birds (blue tits, obvs), one stone.
  • But if you do check in the shower then make sure you actually use your hands and not a scrunchie thing. You need those fingers to properly prod about.
  • For checking not-in-the-shower, you can start by standing front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, looking like a strong, empowering badass. Have a good ol’ gander at your boobs to see if anything’s changed since the last time you checked.
  •  Then, THROW YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR LIKE YOU JUST DON’T CARE and have another look. This is basically the natural way of grabbing your boobs and lifting them up to check from a different angle.
  • Have a nice lie down. Your boobs will flop like pancakes down on your chest. This is one of the best ways to check for actual lumps. Just give your boobs a gentle prod around using a couple of fingers.

Don’t panic if you DO feel some lumps and bumps. All boobs are lumpy (or ‘nodular’ to be scientific) with milk-making bits and fatty bits, but you’re looking for any differences, either between your two boobs or from the last time you checked. Keep a tit diary!

A #valentinesday message* from the Boob Team 💘

A post shared by CoppaFeel! (@coppafeelpeople) on

What am I actually looking for when I’m checking?

You’re not checking for just lumps and bumps. Other signs of mischief can be:

  • Changes in texture. Look for any dimples, where the skin goes in a bit like a mini-crater.
  • Swelling. There might not be any actual lumps, but check for any general swelling or redness.
  • Pain. Some pain is normal, especially in the week of your period, but if you’re in pain all the damn time, or it’s getting worse, then there could be an issue.
  • Discharge. Are your nipples leaking? They shouldn’t be, so have a check.
  • Changes in shape and size. Not everyone’s boobs are identical and that’s totally fine, but if one boob has suddenly changed in shape or size so the other one is like ‘u ok hun’ then there could be something up.
  • Changes in nipples (inversion or direction). The same goes for your nipples. If one has suddenly dived headfirst into your boob then definitely question that.
  • Rashes or crusting. It sounds gross but please don’t ignore wild rashes or crusty nipples! Be brave and flop that boob out to your GP.

Remember, you’re always looking for differences. Checking your boobs from now on will make you more aware of what your normal boobage is, so you notice any differences better in the future.

I think I’ve found something weird, what do I do now?!

DO NOT GOOGLE. Ya hear? Don’t do it. Step away. Put the phone down. It’s not worth it.

The best thing to do is to see your doctor. No shockers there. Don’t be worried about what they might say – remember that in all likelihood, it’s fine. The stats are on your side. There are a load of reasons why your tits are titting about. Grab a family member or good friend and make that appointment.

You can always read our article on how to talk to your doctor about embarrassing stuff if you’re flapping!

Do you owe us 50p now?

 

If you’ve ever paid a visit to the ‘Feminine Hygiene’ section of the supermarket, you’ll know that there are more types of sanitary product than there are Kardashian/Jenner/Hadid siblings put together.

There are mini tampons and regular tampons and super tampons. Applicator tampons and non-applicator tampons. Pads with wings, pads without wings. Maxi pads, night time pads and unicorn pads that make your period look like a rainbow and turn your hair really shiny (ok, these aren’t a thing – but a menstruating gal can dream).

The whole thing is a bit overwhelming, and let’s face it, there’s enough risk of shopping errors during your period as it is (how’d those eight bags of Minstrels get there?) without sanitary gear adding to the confusion. But never fear, we’re here to break it down for you.

So seriously, what’s the difference?

Pads (also known as sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your underwear. Some have extra material on the sides called ‘wings’ that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around while you’re busy slaying all day.

Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina like a fancy plug. There are a few different types of tampon: Some tampons have applicators, which help guide the tampon into place, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger. Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re inserted correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL).

Many girls start out using pads because they’re a bit simpler to use and then progress to using tampons when they want to exercise or go swimming. Others swear by pads for every occasion, all their lives. And some start with tampons and never look back. All these options are totally safe, it’s just important to work out what’s right for you and your body.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Pads (AKA sanitary towels or sanitary napkins) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your pants.
  • Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina. Some tampons have applicators, whereas others you can insert with a clean finger.
  • Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with and an absorbency that works for you. Dassit.

Riiiiiight, but which one should I use?

Figuring out your sanitary wardrobe can be overwhelming – but DO NOT PANIC. All this choice is actually a good thing, as it means you’re more likely to find a product or a combination of products that works for you.

The best way to decide is to shop around. Try a few different options so you can find a product that you’re comfortable with, with the absorbency powers you need right now.

You might want to use different products for different times of your cycle. A lot of people find their period is heavier during the first few days and then tapers off, so you might want to use a more absorbent ‘super’ tampon or pad for those days and then a regular tampon or pad for the rest of your period – or mix it up with tampons for heavy days and pads for lighter days. Think of it like pick ‘n’ mix, for your period.

(You could also buy some actual pick ‘n’ mix, while you’re at it.)

Image: Manjit Thapp

When the puberty train rattles into town, it’s running on its own schedule – but it’s not just the timing that can be a total mystery. Did you know that the tell-tale signs of puberty and periods can be different for you and your besties, and that boys get their own body changes too? (We get boobs, they get balls, huh.)

So if there was an exam on all things puberty, would you pass it? Take our quiz to test what you know – and what you don’t – about growing from a girl into a woman.

Let’s do this!

So what actually *is* puberty?

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Feeling moody and oversensitive right now? This is mostly because…

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Girls can start puberty from as young as eight years old. But when does it *usually* happen?

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Getting whiffy is sure-sign that your body is changing. But roughly how many more sweat glands jump into action during puberty?

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Important hormones are secreted from which gland in the brain during puberty?

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Starting your periods is an important part of puberty. But what’s the real name for it?

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As boys develop, their voices will deepen. But what’s that thing that also becomes more noticeable in their throat?

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Which of these is probably *NOT* a sign of puberty?

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You’ve probs noticed discharge in your knickers. But what does it actually do?

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Can puberty affect your sleep?

Gah! What’s the best way to handle greasy skin and puberty spots?

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Which of these puberty-boob facts is a total FIB?

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Words: Ali Horsfall, Image: Getty

Whether you’ve already started your period or you’re waiting to come on for the first time, it’s a different experience for everyone – and one we love talking about. Here, YouTube star Just Jodes tells us *all* about her first ever period.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Sometimes periods are a walk in the park. A piece of cake. Easy as pie. A doddle. Sometimes you barely even notice they’re there.

There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?

But… sometimes, they do hurt. We’re not going to lie. Don’t worry though, it’s totally normal.

Period pain, or ‘dysmenorrhoea’ if we want to be fancy about it, is thought to happen because the muscles in the wall of your womb are contracting. It’s hard to measure because the type and amount of pain is different for everyone, but as many as 90% of women experience period pain at some point or another.  

What sort of pain are we talking about here?

Period pain typically feels like cramps in your lower abdomen, which can sometimes spread to your back and thighs. Some women also have headaches during their period, and some find it pops up in more unusual places – one of the betty team even gets period twinges in her knees. Seriously.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Not everyone has painful periods, but some cramps below your tummy are common and nothing to panic about.
  • The amount of pain is different for everyone, but it’s usually over in two or three days.
  • For most people period pain is totally bearable, and there are plenty of options to help.

The pain can arrive in short spasms (ow!) or can take the form of a more consistent, dull ache (owwww). Neither are exactly the dream, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Or tummy. Or thighs. Or knees.

How long will the misery last?

Not long, don’t worry. It could be just a few twinges, or it might go on for a little longer – but most period pain is over within two or three days. It usually appears just before your period starts, or at the beginning, when your period is heaviest.

Period pain tends to be worst in the first year or two after you begin your periods, and usually gets better as you get older. So that’s something to look forward to.

For most people period pains are just a nuisance, not a day-ruiner – but remember, you never need to just grin and bear it. If the pain in your uterus is becoming a pain in the arse, there are plenty of things that can help, like hot water bottles and heat packs, painkillers, exercises and other solutions your GP can recommend. 

In the meantime, there’s always a walk in the park. Or a piece of cake. Or a pie.

Not that we’re mad into maths or anything, but our lovely friends at Action Aid have come up with pretty much the best equation ever to exist: girl + sanitary towel = superhero.

With many girls around the world (and some even in the UK) missing school because they can’t afford or don’t have access to pads or tampons, the international charity are on a mission to raise awareness and help these young women in need.

Because if you’re armed with period supplies you can stay in school, learn, grow, become empowered and totally kickass – your period should never stand in the way, right?

To find out which badass sanitary superhero you are, take Action Aid’s quiz below!

You’re buying sanitary towels or tampons, and notice a friend/colleague/neighbour at the till as you go to pay. Are you embarrassed?

Everyone has a period horror story. Which of these scenarios does yours involve?

Have you ever run out of sanitary towels/tampons and had to improvise?

Euphemisms for periods exist around the world. Which of these euphemisms would you use to describe your period?

How do you feel when you’re on your period?

Image: Action Aid/Katie Edmunds